Monday, May 2, 2011

What If ...

Growing up, we read a lot of Shel Silverstein.  And honestly, I wasn't quite sure about that guy.  His drawings looked like something I could have done - a little bit childlike.  His poems were pure silliness (sometimes mixed with a little bit of creepiness) - perfect goofball humor for elementary-aged kids.  And his picture on the book jacket confirmed to me that he was a just a little bit different - what was with the furry beard and bald head?

But I was hooked on his words and can still remember some of my favorites ...

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too
"Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too, 
Went for a ride in a flying shoe ..."

The Beard
"My beard grows to my toes, 
I never wears no clothes, 
I wraps my hair, 
Around my bare, 
And down the road I goes."

The Hat
"Teddy said it was a hat, 
So I put it on. 
Now Dad is saying, "Where the heck's
the toilet plunger gone?"

Reading back through his books with my kids ...

I'm still not sure about that guy!  Still childlike, silly, creepy and goofy, but now I see how he appealed to the kids and the adults alike and managed to entertain us all and even educate us a little.  And give us all a good chuckle/shudder/snort!

One poem in particular, has truly stuck with me and I find myself repeating it back to myself periodically.

By Shel Silverstein

Last night, while I lay thinking here,

some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:

Whatif I'm dumb in school?
Whatif they've closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there's poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don't grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won't bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?

Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

Having a nervous nelly-belly, I remember a lot of those same Whatifs visiting me at night when I was growing up!

Lately, however, my Whatifs have taken on a different look.  A bit of a "What If Mommy Didn't" look.

I don't know about you other parents, but doesn't it seem like you spend an inordinate amount of time picking up, straightening up, and putting back around your house?  And more often than not, it's not your stuff?!?

On any given day, I have to wonder ...
  • What if I didn't pick the shoes off the floor that almost just barely made it into the shoe bin?
  • What if I didn't wipe the ginormous crumbs off the table that somehow fell off someone's plate?
  • What if I didn't carry upstairs the 2 1/2 pairs of socks that someone left on the bottom step?
  • What if I didn't scoop up the random pile of Legos from the dining room floor before vacuuming?
  • What if I didn't hang up the sweatshirts that repeatedly jump off their hooks?
  • What if I didn't wipe the crunchies off the kitchen bench ... the ones nobody else seems to mind sitting on?
  • What if I didn't put the stool back where it belongs, instead of in the middle of the hall?
  • What if I didn't wipe the nasty glob of toothpaste off the countertop ... right next to the gooey smear of hand soap?
  • What if I didn't put the gallon of milk back in the fridge?
  • What if I didn't clear the half dozen board books off the couch and from behind the pillows?
  • What if I didn't hang up the sodden towel on the very available bathroom hook?
  • What if I didn't gather into the trash all the semi-used Kleenex from someone's bed?
  • What if I didn't pick up the baseball cap and glove and ball and bag from the dining room?
  • What if I didn't re-straighten the pillows and blankets haphazardly strewn across the couch?
  • What if I didn't hang up the pj's and toss the dirty undies in the hamper?
  • What if I didn't re-shelve the library books that have escaped the bookshelf?
What if?  What if?  What if?

I think it's very likely that the kitchen would be grungy, the floor would be littered and the general cleanliness of our house would give me a twitch.  

But ... maybe, just maybe, I'm missing out on some very teachable moments with my kids.  I know that I don't give them enough credit for what they are able to do and I know that sometimes I don't give them enough opportunities to prove they can be responsible.  Too often I think that it's just easier for me to pick up the socks, toys, towels and books rather than setting that responsibility back on their little, but able shoulders.  In reality, it's a disservice to them for me to continue to clean up after them.

So ... here and now (raising my right hand) I am committing to handling this "What If?" problem a little differently.  Instead of picking up the Barbie or StarWars action figure and putting it away, I going to put it in my "Buy Back Bin".  Instead of re-hanging the towels or sweatshirts, I'll put them in my "Buy Back Bin".  Instead of saving the Legos from the vacuum and putting them away, I'll put them in my ... say it with me ... "Buy Back Bin".  Instead of tidying up the couch, throwing away the Kleenex or returning the milk to the fridge, I'll notify the guilty party and they can do it, plus a job from the "Great Learning Box".  There's the potential for this to be a little more work for me, but I have to remember that it's an investment in me not spending the rest of my life picking up after my kids!  Especially since they are all 100% capable of doing that job themselves.

With the number of items that I step over on a daily basis, I think I'm going to need a bigger "Buy Back Bin" and a few more chores in the "Great Learning Box"!  But, I think I'll also have a few more minutes in my day, a few less grumbles in my mind and heart, children learning the benefits of responsibility ... and a really clean house!

Want to join me in the "Wipe Out the What Ifs" crusade?  It promises to be rather liberating!


I wrote this post on Saturday (in the throes of a "put your stuff away" mommy-tantrum!).  We had a brief pow-wow while sitting around the breakfast table and put the plan into immediate effect.  Currently the "Buy Back Bin" contains two shoes (that don't match), a pair of flip flops, some random toys, a light saber and someone's slightly damp bathroom towel.  But, I also have three kids who are significantly more aware of their own things (out of fear of losing them, no doubt) and a tidy-er home.  Now if we can just keep it up!

1 comment:

  1. Ok - so this is brilliant. Those what-ifs drive me crazy too but so does a messy house. Will have to ponder and put into effect. Thanks! And thanks for popping by my food blog too!


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